Enrichment Award Reports
Joanna Loomis at the New York Legal Assistance Group LGBTQ+ Law Project, New York, NY
This summer, I completed an unpaid internship with the New York Legal Assistance Group LGBTQ+ Law Project. The New York Legal Assistance Group (or NYLAG) provides free civil legal assistance to low-income New Yorkers, and the LGBTQ+ Law Project targets those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc.
Mostly, my job was doing intake, building a resource booklet for NYLAG clients, and, once it became clear that my written Spanish was much better than my spoken Spanish, translating Spanish documents like birth certificates and divorce orders into English.
I really enjoyed translating legal documents. Birth certificates were similar to each other, but had enough differences depending on which country and region they came from to keep it interesting. The divorce order was the most difficult document to translate. It was in legalese, mostly in the passive voice, had unfamiliar vocabulary and strange grammar, was out of order, and had missing pages. Under the circumstances, I was surprised I was able to translate anything, much less get a working translation of everything that I was given.
I don’t like talking to strangers, so I was less excited about doing intake, during which we asked people about their demographics and case to determine whether the lawyers at NYLAG could take the case. However, I’m glad I did them because it was through intake that I first met Perla, the trans* Latina woman who I helped through a name change. I did everything that her case required, from translating her birth certificate to filling out her name change petition and other documents. The best part was when she came in to sign them. I knew I was helping her because with her feminine appearance, showing her ID with a masculine name and gender for traveling, routine traffic stops, etc. could only cause confusion, and might even put her in danger. Because all of the documents were in English and Perla was far more comfortable in Spanish, I sat down with her and translated the name change petition into Spanish out loud for her. Perla signed the petition, and it was ready to go to court. Unfortunately, I had to leave before I could see the petition brought to court, but I’m sure her petition will pass.
My favorite part of the internship, though, was doing outreach at Pride Festivals, during which we passed out flyers and talked to people about the organization. Everything there was bright and colorful, and everyone there looked excited and happy. Lots of people were wearing silly costumes. More importantly, I knew that like me, everyone was there to throw off the expectations of society and show their true selves. Their jubilation was infectious.
Through this experience I know what to expect from a legal career. I might not help a lot of people at once, but I will be able to make meaningful changes in people’s lives, one person at a time. I also got to experience New York City! I didn’t take very many pictures, but here are a few: (Statue of Liberty, the Orange is the New Black Installation at Times Square, Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks, and two from the Central Park Zoo).
Without the Honors Enrichment Award paying my rent, I never would have been able to afford to stay in New York and take advantage of this amazing opportunity. Thank you, Honors Program, for the chance to prepare for a legal career while also helping the LGBTQ+ community!
Lucy Font in Copenhagen, Denmark with ArtsBridge
This summer, I had the privilege of traveling to Copenhagen to represent ArtsBridge and the University of Delaware at an international conference. ArtsBridge is a program that promotes the integration of the arts in K-12 schools. Its primary goal is to combat the issue of dwindling funding for arts programs and better reach diverse learners. I discovered the program as a sophomore, and as its name promised, ArtsBridge did indeed bridge the gap between my desire to teach and my interest in alternative teaching methods. Over the past year, I created a dance-integrated math curriculum for second grade students to be implemented in local schools. The goal of my project is to establish community connections while determining the possible effects that dance could have on student engagement and achievement.
Dance and the Child International, also referred to as “daCi”, is an association devoted to dance education for youth and children. When Dr. Lynnette Overby, director of ArtsBridge at UD, asked me to attend the daCi international congress in Copenhagen, I accepted immediately. The theme of the congress was “Twinning” – the concept of two or more partners working together to foster reciprocity and share knowledge. The twinning model directly parallels my work with ArtsBridge, in which I collaborate with various community partners to implement dance curricula. Before I elaborate, I would like to thank Dr. Overby and the University of Delaware Honors Program for their continued support, without which I would have never had this life-changing opportunity.
I traveled to Copenhagen with another ArtsBridge Scholar and recent UD graduate, Amanda Boccardi. We began each morning by attending a Dance Flavors class, hosted by various dancers from around the world. We would then watch keynote speakers, engage in meaningful discourse, and apply our arts integration knowledge during interactive workshops. These academic experiences gave me the opportunity to collaborate with other educators and disseminate my own knowledge on a variety of topics.
Dr. Overby’s presentation was a workshop on designing impactful community engagement projects. Amanda and I shared our own community engagement experiences and discussed how they are examples of high-level community engagement, which is attained through open communication and ample reciprocity. Twenty teachers, scholars, and dancers from all over the world attended our presentation. Everyone enjoyed learning about community engagement and designing their own projects during the workshop, which combated a plethora of community issues, from educational inequity to lack of resources for refugees. After speaking, I was introduced to participants from a variety of countries and backgrounds. I even met the coordinator for ArtsBridge in Slovenia! We received an abundance of positive feedback, which further confirmed the meaningfulness of my work and was perhaps the greatest reward of the trip.
Although the conference consumed much of our week, Amanda and I took full advantage of our time in a foreign country. We were immediately enamored by the city; from its beautiful architecture to breathtaking canals, Copenhagen looked like a picture on a postcard. We rented bicycles right away, as cycling is the main mode of transportation for most locals. We saw places such as Rosenborg Castle, home of beautiful botanical gardens, as well as the crown jewels. We took a canal tour in Nyhavn and ate Danish candies while exploring Tivoli Gardens. Copenhagen is a thriving city that offers indescribable beauty and a diverse array of cultural experiences.
My week in Copenhagen held some of the most impactful moments of my college career. The daCi conference gave me the invaluable opportunity to network with other professionals in my field, and to disseminate the results, both perceived and evidence-based, of my own work. I discovered that despite my ample community engagement experience, there is still much to learn, and I am eager to delve further into the resources I acquired on the subject. Furthermore, I was encouraged to leave my comfort zone and to immerse myself in a foreign culture, which I did with zeal. The only shortcoming of my trip is that it has left me with an insatiable appetite for further experiences abroad (and for Danishes).
Ashley Bostwick in Barcelona, Spain with Barcelona Connect
This past summer, I had the opportunity to live and work in Barcelona, Spain in order to improve my Spanish language skills. It’s safe to say that my summer was richer with experience than I could have ever imagined.
I arrived in Barcelona on May 29th and stayed until July 25th and was greeted by an ambassador to my program, Adelante Abroad. My experience with this program was nothing short of excellent. The apartment I was placed in was located conveniently close to the metro stop near La Sagrada Familia, an incredible basilica designed by Gaudí. I lived with a single woman who’d rented her room to me, allowing for plenty of language practice in the household.
For the first two weeks in Barcelona I attended an intensive Spanish class for six hours a day. Since everyone was from a different country, including Japan, Turkey, Ukraine, and Italy, we had no choice but to speak Spanish as that was the only language we had in common. While it was difficult to get our point across at times, my speaking proficiency soared over the course of those two weeks.
Three weeks in, I started my internship writing for a magazine, Barcelona Connect. With both online and print versions, I was busy as a bee writing up articles and press releases for events that were to take place all over Barcel ona and in surrounding areas.
Not only did I gain a tremendous amount of professional experience through my internship, but I also got to explore one of the most beautiful cities in the world each and every day. Since my sense of direction is basically nonexistent, I found myself discovering new streets and sites and people every day. Barcelona is broken up into eleven different neighborhoods or barrios, each with its own style and personality, so to speak. Getting lost amongst the winding alleys of El Born, Barcelona’s oldest and most historical district, was definitely one of my favorite pastimes.
I was absolutely fascinated to learn about the differences in culture between America and Spain. While I definitely experienced culture shock at times, this experience taught me to be a global citizen. Instead of focusing on the differences between cultures, it was important to connect with Barcelona locals by highlighting the similarities between us.
I’ve never been somewhere and seen so much pride in the culture. From almost every win dow hangs the unofficial Catalan flag, declaring that that specific house believes that Catalunya should secede from Spain. Although the sentiments were not usually violent, you could feel how strong their pride was just by strolling through the streets. Although most people speak Castellano, or traditional Spanish, everyone in Barcelona speaks Catalan, which sounds like a mixture of French and Spanish. It was difficult to understand at first, but with a little practice and patience I picked up enough to get by.
These two months have absolutely been the most amazing and eye-opening of my life, I’d like to thank the Honors Program for their immense generosity. Without the Honors Enrichment Award, living and working among the locals of Barcelona would have been impossible.
Celeste DiLauro in Cuzco, Peru
This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Peru for three weeks. I traveled first to Lima to see the beautiful coast of Miraflores and to eat delicious seafood. Then, I ventured to Ollantaytambo, a quiet town in the Sacred Valley. There, I learned more about the native culture and saw beautiful Inca ruins. After two days in the Sacred Valley, I traveled to Machu Picchu with my sister. I was overwhelmed by the beauty and intricacy of the ancient city. Finally, I went to the heart of Cusco, where I would spend the next two weeks. For the first week of the trip, I was a tourist who was learning about the Peruvian culture through tours of museums and ruins. Now, I would begin the section of my trip that would allow me to learn about Peru in a unique way.
For the following two weeks, I volunteered at the Mother Teresa orphanage, which houses children ages 4-18 with disabilities. I was not aware of the severity of the children’s conditions until I arrived at the orphanage. I was surprised to find nearly every child in a wheelchair and unable to speak. I was also surprised that the orphanage has an adult section consisting of men and women with disabilities. Each morning I arrived, I would change the kids out of pajamas, feed them, brush their teeth, and put them down for a nap. There was rarely much down time or even much time to do anything other than serving the kids’ basic needs. But when there was, it was difficult to do activities with the children. Many of them clench their hands or feet, so I would go to each and massage their hands or take them out of their wheelchairs and hold them. Though the facility was quite clean, I was saddened by the lack of resources, such as wipes, as well as stimulation for the children. I think the children could benefit from having music or someone to read to them.
At the orphanage, I was drawn to a boy named Matais. I believe he has Cerebral Palsy and is severely undernourished. I have had a lot of experience with children and have found myself connecting to them by talking and doing activities. However, I connected to Matais in a different way. It was challenging to get any feedback or response from him, whether it was when I rubbed his feet or held him. I had a connection with Matais because I felt as though he needed someone just to be there for him, and that I could do.
My experience was extremely draining, both emotionally and physically. It was upsetting to see detached children, many of whom are in chronic pain. I did not see any visitors, so I do not think the children’s families visit often, if at all. My work at the orphanage made me see the importance of family and having a life filled with supportive, loving people. There are a few full-time volunteers at the orphanage who live there. I greatly admire their dedication to helping others. One of the volunteers explained that she had an aneurism many years ago and needed brain surgery. She was so thankful to be alive and healthy that she sacrificed her career and now works full-time at the orphanage.
I am extremely grateful that the Honors Program at UD offers the Academic Enrichment Award. I had the opportunity to see a culture through an entirely new lens.
Brian Griffiths in Thailand with the Safari Park Open Zoo
I began to plan this trip with the goal in mind to discover whether or not I wanted to pursue a career working with wildlife and to be able to apply my skills to a site that really needs our help. I had no idea what to expect about the Safari Park or Thailand in general, so I went in with a really open mind. The trip was hampered early, within 3 hours of arriving in Bangkok, when all of my equipment and money was stolen but we ultimately arrived at the park safely. The Safari Park Open Zoo combines a rescue center that takes in any exotic animals that were being sold on the black markets with an open zoo attraction in which tourists can hop on a bus and go on a safari.
The volunteers split into teams each day to take care of the Rescue animals, Birds, Cubs, Big Cats, and Ungulates (giraffes and zebras). On the Rescue Team, I loved being responsible for the diet of the various animals, which included macaques, gibbons, binturongs, jackals, rabbits, deer, a civet, a cassowary, and a langur. I would “chop the diet” for the animals while other volunteers cleaned the cages. Lots of these animals you could pet and interact with. Some, like Dobby the gibbon, would hold your hand, play with your hair, or let you scratch his back. We spent lots of time making enrichment items for the different enclosures, especially for the monkeys, which gave my engineering work some practical applications. The monkeys would self-harm when they were bored, so this part of the Rescue team was absolutely key.
The Cubs team was definitely my favorite team, and I was lucky to get lots of days doing cubs. At the front of the park were baby leopards, baby lions, “teenage” leopards, and an enormous tiger (Blue) that visitors to the park could feed, play with, or take photos with. The cubs team was responsible for managing how much the cubs are fed each time and making sure both the visitors and the cats are safe during the time that they are interacting. My favorite part of the experience was the bond you make with the animals. I remember on my first day I was tossed in with the teenage leopards with one bottle of milk and they just tore me up; one in my arms to drink, one attached to my leg biting, and one on my back. You come out bleeding from everywhere and with hurt pride. That was my first big realization that these are dangerous animals and their instincts are still quite strong. When you are afraid, they can smell your adrenaline and they associate that with prey. I realized that customers were also afraid of the big leopards, and didn’t go in with them as much as the tiny leopards, but if nobody went in with them they would only misbehave more and more. I started to spend all of my free time in with those leopards then, bearing it out, and by the last day I could walk in the enclosure and sit on the floor and they would come up to me and sit in my lap, purr, rub me, and even lick my face (especially my favorite, Bitung). The change and promise that you see in these animals is just incredible, and something I will always remember.
The park did leave a lasting effect on me. As our stay lengthened we became less starry-eyed and more aware of the problems in the park and why volunteers are so key. A prime example would be the bears on safari, which are rotated like the other animals to be outside or caged. One bear, a Malayan Sun Bear, was too aggressive to be let onto the safari, and so he basically just spent his entire life in his small cage. This species of bear is extremely rare, and it was awful to see such an incredible animal in such a state. Without volunteers that have the skills needed to rehabilitate and train the bear, he may never get to leave. As I stay in America now, my thoughts still return to the Sun Bear and how I can help in the future.
Michael Hoffman in Lima, Peru with MedLife
The day after finals ended I traveled to Lima, Peru for eight days on a Medlife trip. After being stressed for a week I was ready to get away to a warmer place and make a difference for a community in need. Little did I know just how bad the living conditions and medical care were for some people living on the mountains in Lima.
Medlife is a non-profit organization that works to provide medical care for those who cannot afford it in underdeveloped communities around the world. Medlife sets up multiple mobile clinics throughout different communities in a region. The clinics are broken down into tooth brushing, health education, triage, doctors, dentist, OBG’s, and pharmacists. Medlife also sets up projects where volunteers help to better life in the community.
On the trip I stayed in a hostel in the city of Mira Flores. I went with a few other students from the University of Delaware, but the majority of students there were from schools in Minnesota, Florida, and all over the county.
The second day there my group went to work on the project, which was building a staircase on a steep hill. This involved a lot of labor on a hot day and was very tiring but it was definitely worth the work. Our group formed a chain and would pass cement buckets up the hill in order to fill the framework. Different groups went to work on the project throughout the week and on the last day we all went back to see the finished project and had a celebration with the community. The community broke glasses of champagne on each staircase to inaugurate the staircase. They then went on to dance and sing for us. It was very rewarding to see how much the staircase meant to them.
On the third day my group went on a reality tour where we walked around the communities to see what life was like for these people. We passed a huge cemetery that had people living right above it illegally. There was garbage all throughout the streets and wild dogs everywhere. There was only one police station with one holding cell and one police car for many thousands of people. Their bathrooms were just a hole in the ground and it was unbelievable to see older people climb many flights of stairs up a hill, if they were lucky enough to have stairs. An earthquake would be absolutely devastating in these communities.
The rest of the week I worked in the mobile clinics. I assisted doctors by taking the temperature, weight, blood pressure, and height of the patients. I directed the patients where to go and learned from the doctors as they diagnosed their patients. The doctor would translate the Spanish into English for us but my Spanish definitely has improved after the trip.
One of the days a student who was volunteering offered a little kid and airplane blanket. The kid was saying something in Spanish that no one was able to understand. Once it was translated he was saying he had no money, he did not understand that it was a gift. Once the student said it was a gift in Spanish the kids face light up and he hugged her and gave her a kiss. Everyone around was tearing up and it was definitely the most memorable moment of the trip and sums up how much we meant to the community. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone and it wouldn’t have been possible for me without the honors enrichment award!
Morgan Lehr in Tanzania with the Dare Women’s Foundation
Last summer in 2014, I learned from Lindsay Yeager that many girls in Tanzania, especially in rural areas, could not normally attend school because they did not have access to feminine hygiene products. As a future teacher and passionate believer in education, I was blown away by this fact. As a team, Lindsay and I began to plan a trip to Tanzania where an organization called the Dare Women’s Foundation was working to empower women and solve issues like the lack of feminine hygiene. During January of 2015, we went on the most immersive, intense, and eye opening journey of my life.
First, we planned to implement a
system we created to help women start their own businesses selling antimicrobial reusable pads including distributing materials like microfiber and sewing machines, a manual we designed, and our pad design. We also planned to create a documentary film and book uncovering the serious challenges women in Tanzania face.
During our trip, we spent nine days in Machame Village near Kilimanjaro, two days in Kabuku Village, one day in Moshi court, four days doing translating and editing work while visiting national parks in the area, and several days traveling. In a short time, we were able to accomplish even more than we had originally thought, and we documented incredible and moving stories to share with the world. Many women we interviewed had endured rape, domestic violence, or discrimination. Most widows had their land taken from them when their husbands died. All of the women had little to no access to feminine hygiene products which, due to the nature of their grueling and laborious work, often left them with medical conditions like fungal infections.
While the work we did there proved extremely emotionally draining, I was inspired and empowered by the Dare Women’s Foundation. It is the foundation’s goal to improve the quality of life for women in Tanzania, and in large part, that goal is accomplished by bringing women together to give them a voice and a purpose. For example, we interviewed a women who told us how as a young woman, she had to take care of an infant child and her husband who had terminal cancer before he died, and she was forced to move off of her land. She said in the interview that sometimes she feels hopeless, like she has no reason to live. Yet the next day, she came to our lesson on how to make pads with the community of women, her friends. She showed such an eagerness to learn and said how excited she was to use the pads and sell them for profit to pay her child’s school fees. To see that kind of hope sparks in a woman who has endured so much truly makes the effort worthwhile.
Upon returning to the United States, our work has not stopped. After updating our sponsors and supporters of the great success of our trip, we have received an overwhelmingly positive response. For example, in May 2015, we will be featured on the cover of IGS’s Global Magazine. Also, I have been asked to develop a children’s book and I have been made the content editor of the new website we are soon launching for the Dare Women’s Foundation as we increase the organization’s online presence. This project has changed me and helped countless women, and I cannot thank the Honors Program enough for their infallible support.
John McCarron in New Delhi, India
Sometimes in order to change the world you need a little more than just good intentions and a smile. Of course it’s a great place to start, but helping your fellow man takes a total devotion to the cause. Despite broadening my prospective on Indian culture while learning the fundamentals of eastern medicine, realizing this pearl of information was the most important thing I took away from volunteering in India.
I began my journey in New Delhi, India, where I was greeted by the kindest of hosts through the humanitarian organization, VolunteeringIndia. There I became oriented to Indian customs and tradition, visiting sites from the local market in Delhi to the Taj Mahal in Agra. To make a bit of a generalization, I gradually noticed how incredibly kind and friendly everyone in India is! A smile never goes unreturned, and don’t expect to be lost for more than a minute before a well-intentioned stranger comes to your aid.
After exploring the hazy concrete Jungle known as India’s capital, I embarked on a 15-hour bus ride into the Himalayan Mountains towards a small town called Palampur. For one month I worked as a volunteering pre med student in a privately owned underprivileged hospital with some very knowledgeable and skilled physicians and surgeons, and my experiences were both inspiring and humbling. I won’t pretend that my tireless efforts saved lives every day, or even impacted the community in a clearly visible way. However, I will ascertain that my time spent in the hospital helping perform tasks such as assisting geriatric patients in and out of their beds, taking blood pressure and vitals of post surgery patients, and applying gel to aid with ultra sound procedures reduced the stress on the doctors in a severely understaffed hospital, and made a positive contribution to the people of Palampur. My biggest contribution came when I observed that nearly every case in the hospital was related to poor renal function, resulting in kidney stones. I talked to a few physicians and did a little research during my down time. I created a poster, now hanging in the hospital, which displays what I determined to be the best advice for the average Indian citizen in Palampur on how to prevent kidney stones. If I can’t directly help the sick, maybe I can prevent them from developing the problem in the first place long after I’m gone.
So this takes me back to my first point; good intentions aren’t everything. And although I was a little disappointed I didn’t exactly change the world, seeing the potential impact I can make in the future was a profoundly happy feeling, one that excites me to train for the Peace Corps and study to become a physician. My next goals in becoming an EMT and volunteering in developed hospitals will continue to teach me the essential skills necessary for continuing my journey to becoming an effective health care giver. And if you happen to be reading this post, then I challenge you to notice something in this world that could use a loving touch, and learn the new skills necessary to improve someone’s life. Helping other people makes everyone involved happy, and in my opinion is the finest expression of our selfish nature and the inherent beauty of the human race.
Breanna Mesa in Cusco, Peru with MedLife
I never thought I would have the chance to go to South America, let alone small village communities in and around Cusco, Peru. On my trip with MedLife, all the volunteers and I benefitted over 903 Peruvians who cannot usually get medical attention and haven’t received any in years. Patients varied in age from 2 to 90. Each clinic that we set up had different rotation stations including triage (height and weight measurements) dentistry, and gynecology. My personal favorite was tooth brushing and fluoride. Children would come up to the table, puzzled by the looks of the toothbrush and how it functioned. I was honored to help them learn, but at the same time, it was one of the saddest things I had ever seen. Clueless. They were clueless. They didn’t even own the basic hygiene product of a toothbrush, something we use everyday without thinking twice. The entire experience opened up my eyes to how fortunate and ungrateful I am at times. These people lived in absolute poverty and walked miles for basic medical treatment, a luxury I had right around the corner. It was truly humbling.
While in Peru, Machu Picchu was a must-see. Our group left the hostel at 3 am and took a train and two buses to get to the scene, but boy was it worth it. Not only was the view gorgeous, we learned so much about the Incan history. We even hiked to the top on a path called Sun Gate Trail to see the best view possible. I didn’t realize nature could be so beautiful. Until next time, Peru!
Naimisha Movva in Peru with Medlife
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”- Martin Luther King Jr. I had the amazing opportunity to spend the first week of summer break in Peru volunteering with MEDLIFE (Medicine, Education, and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere) thanks to the Honors Enrichment Award. MEDLIFE works to extinguish the injustice in healthcare in Peru, Ecuador, and more recently in Tanzania and India. My time in Peru was spent providing medical care to remote communities, building stairs, and exploring Lima.
When I landed, I met thirty-eight people from across the nation. For the entire week, I shared a room with five other people which seemed insane at first but by the end, I could not imagine it any other way. The primary purpose of this trip was to provide medical care to communities who cannot access it. There were three doctors, a dentist, and a gynecologist with our group that conducted basic examinations. At the education station, adults learned about illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. I worked with two of the doctors, did triage where I took vital signs, pharmacy, and tooth brushing. I was in awe when I would hand basic medicine like ibuprofen to a patient and they would hug me! It was amazing to be included in their community. Speaking Spanish helped me bond with the patients and allowed me to expand my conversational skills.
Besides providing medical care, the group did rotations contributing to a development project which in Peru is building stairs. Many of the homes were on steep hills and the people put their lives in danger daily in order to walk all the way down. As we were walking to the stairs, I slipped almost fell. It was frightening to say the least but the Peruvian women carried their babies on their backs down these hills. I have a newfound respect for these women who work, maintain their households, take care of their children, and put their lives in danger to carry buckets of water to their homes. In order to receive access to electricity and water in Peru, each ho meowner needs a property title which a family cannot get unless their home is accessible. MEDLIFE partners with a community to build stairs and help them get property titles. At the end of week, we had built a staircase and celebrated with the people. It was extraordinary to see people who had nothing share their food with us. This reminded me of a little, malnourished boy I gave my chips to earlier in the week. As we were playing, he offered me chips. This sense of giving and kindness was in every individual I had the pleasure of interacting with during the week. This trip taught me that you can conquer the difficulties in life if you are determined and positive.
Between the mobile clinics, we explored Lima and Paracas. We ate all of the Peruvian dishes, visited the Larcomar beach, did a boat tour of the Ballestas Islands, and dune racing in the desert oasis of Huacachina. Every day was a new adventure. Peru gave me new friends, great memories, and the desire to continue exploring and serving others. I want to see the world.
I owe this unforgettable experience to the Honors Enrichment Award and saying thank you does not even begin to fully express my gratitude for this opportunity.
Laurne Terasaki in Costa Rica and Nicaragua with Vida
With the generosity and support of the Honors Program at UD, I had the opportunity this past winter to travel with an organization called Vida to impoverished and rural communities in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. A group of 16 volunteers, including medical, veterinary, and dental-focused students, as well as bilingual doctors and staff, provided medical, dental, and veterinary care in three communities over a span of two weeks. Before I set out on my trip, I didn’t know what to expect, except maybe swarms of mosquitoes and ample supply of rice and beans.
Day one was filled with excitement as we practiced taking physical exams on fellow volunteers, learned about common illnesses, and attempted to learn medical terms in Spanish. But I don’t think that anything could have prepared me for the following day when we visited Los Chiles, a community in northern Costa Rica. Populated mostly by illegal Nicaraguan immigrants, “houses” there were nothing more than wood and black plastic bags tied to posts. Many of the people who lived there worked in agriculture, and some had no source of income other than the crops they grew.
Instead of setting up a clinic, the medical team surveyed the households and collected data to provide insight as to whether or not it would be a good area to have a mobile clinic come a few times a year. Each person welcomed us with open arms and kindness that I was unaccustomed to, but which was a pleasant surprise. During our exploration of the community, I had the chance to see the poverty and conditions that many Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans live in. It was heart breaking, yet inspiring. Though they had so little and lived simple lives, they worked without complaining so their children could have a better life. It gave me a greater appreciation for all that I have, and made me want to work harder to become a doctor and work to improve global health.
A few days later, we arrived in El Manguito, our first stop in Nicaragua. Over the course of three days, we attended to almost 100 patients. The hot, one-room school building with dust-covered desks was nothing like a typical American doctor’s office. We saw cases of parasite infection, common colds, malnutrition, and chronic back pain, among others.
We then traveled to Los Chilamates, a community near Managua. There, we served over 60 patients in two days. Every patient we saw was grateful for the smallest thing, whether it was ibuprofen for the sore knee of a seventy-year-old man still working in agriculture, or multivitamins to promote growth in a bright child. In those two weeks, I made life-long friends, played soccer games with local kids (and lost), donated school supplies that we had collected at UD, and practiced my Spanish with anyone willing to put up with my American accent. We also explored the natural beauty of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, visiting a hot spring and a lagoon filled with rainwater.
This trip was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I am so appreciative to have had the chance to learn, adapt, and experience life in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Samantha Fino with the Olifants West Nature Reserve in South Africa
Transfrontier Africa located in Olifants West Nature Reserve, part of the Balule Nature Reserve, is the only NGO research hub for the greater Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa covering about 19,633 square kilometers. This landscape contains more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve, several of which are in danger of extinction. Transfrontier Africa’s main mission is to preserve these threatened and endangered species through population monitoring and anti-poaching efforts. The locations of individuals in various threatened populations determined through research are used by the wardens of the anti- poaching unit as a means of focusing their efforts for the protection of the overall populations.
In the Balule Nature Reserve, there is a population of Black Rhinoceroses (Diceros bicornis) that contains 16 individuals. These individuals are monitored seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year, not only on their whereabouts within the nature reserve, but also for conservation efforts. Population monitoring is done many ways. One method is walking for middens, or specific locations where individuals will mark their territory. Another is through camera traps, motion-triggered devices. Camera traps are deployed throughout the reserve, typically at waterholes and midden sites. The pictures are then retrieved from the SD cards and sorted for individuals to be identified. If there were any sightings of a Black Rhinoceros by either our team of research technicians or other reserve guides, the information of the individual and its whereabouts were recorded. The monitoring and protection of Black Rhinoceros populations at the Balule Nature Reserve is funded by the World Wildlife Fund.
A second species of main concern is White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). This population is a lot larger with about 100 individuals, although still threatened by poaching. Along with the methods mentioned above, we also used radio telemetry to track White Rhinoceros individuals. Much calmer in nature, collaring White Rhinoceroses is not as risky as it is with Black Rhinoceroses. With radios and scanners, we would search the landscape for particular individuals if they were not spotted and identified through the methods above. The research team hopes to find the whereabouts of all individuals of both species about each week and become concerned if they go undetected for about a month.
The last species of main focus is African Elephant (Loxodonta Africana). With financial aid and collaboration with the Save the Elephants Foundation, Transfrontier Africa monitors populations in the Balule Nature Reserve. Through camera trapping and game drives, individual African Elephants are identified by their ears, acting like a finger print because they rip and tear over time. This information is being used to create a census of all the individuals so that their populations, demographics and migrations can be monitored for species conservation. While working as a field technician, I experienced several other species in their natural environment, such as Lion, Jackal, Hippopotamus, Hyena, Civet, Giraffe, Warthog, Zebra, Impala, Wildebeest, Waterbuck, Kudu, Steinbok, Sable Antelope, several species of birds, among others.
Overall, this experience really opened my eyes to the dangers that threatened and endangered species face, as well as how difficult it is to monitor and protect them from the conservation standpoint. I hope to use and continue this type of work in my future endeavors, and contribute to saving populations struggling against habitat destruction, global climate change, among many other pressures, in a world characterized by the growing human population.
Navika Gangrade with the ROAM Food Truck Conference in San Antonio, Texas
This year San Antonio, Texas hosted the annual ROAM Food Truck Conference. I submitted an Honors Enrichment Fund for this conference as I have the opportunity to be team leader for a group of five students working on starting a food truck at the University of Delaware. In conjunction with faculty in the College of Health Sciences and Lerner College of Business and Economics, throughout the course of this school year, the team will create a business plan for a food truck that provides flavorful and healthful items. Entering the summer, investors and financers will be sought using the completed business plan. The ROAM Food Truck Conference delivered valuable insight, which I would not have obtained otherwise, on the exact process in starting a food truck business, as well as valuable opportunities for networking in the field.
Entering into the world of food trucks, business plans, and finances I was unequipped to handle the amount and style of work that this endeavor requires. The ROAM Food Truck Conference provided me with valuable information. As a 2-day conference, I participated in “Track 1,” which had seminars on how to start a food truck. Some examples of seminars included: “So You Wanna Start a Food Truck? Business Planning,” “Funding Facts,” and “Marketing and Branding for a Food Truck.” Furthermore, I had the opportunity to network with current food truck owners. I gained many contacts out of this trip, including contacts for a professional who offered to review the team’s business plan and the (RED) campaign, who hopes to work with the collegiate food truck, once it starts.
In the free time, between conference session and in the mornings and evenings, I took the opportunity to explore all that San Antonio has to offer. As a historical city, I first visited the Alamo, infamous for the Battle of the Alamo. Next, I took a trip to Schilo’s famous German deli and tried out the homemade root beer, pea soup, and knockwurst. Then I visited Market Square and El Mercado, a conglomeration of Mexican food and antique booths. Also, as part of the conference I was able to visit a food truck “park” and explore their marketing techniques and vehicles. It was a great experience to explore a city I have never been to.
Finally, I would like to thank the University of Delaware Honors Program for providing me with this opportunity. Without the financial assistance of the Honors Program, this trip would not have been possible. This trip directly benefits not only the team and myself, but the UD community, as the team is now very equipped with the tools and knowledge to execute our business plan and work towards the manifestation of our first nutritious, healthful food truck.
Aaron King with Volunteer HQ in Cusco, Peru
“Let’s just make it there”. That is what I was telling myself as I sat alone in Dulles International Airport, waiting for the the first of three flights that would eventually bring me to the
ancient city of Cusco, Peru. Over the summer I had signed up to do volunteer construction work with International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) for four weeks. But my mind wasn’t on the future construction site or the people I was about to meet. It was simply focused on making it to Cusco ontime without any missed flights or baggage. And by golly, one cancelled flight, stiff cot, and 20 hours later, I finally made it to Cusco in one piece.
One of the small things I love about traveling is the first time you walk or drive through a new city, just taking in all the foreign sights around you. And despite my excessive explorations around Cusco on Google Street View, actually driving through the streets for the first time was an amazing feeling. Not only because the
people and buildings looked different, but because I knew I was driving through the city I was going to call home for the next month. And even then, I knew I would one day look back at this first drive through Cusco and think to myself how little at that time I actually knew about this city and what it was going mean to live here.
My home in Cusco was a large volunteer house, with anywhere from 1220 fellow volunteers living there at one time. As I was hoping for, I lived with an eclectic bunch, with people hailing from New Zealand, Kyrgyzstan, Italy, Australia, England, Ireland, and Canada. As cool as it was to meet so many people from so many different countries, the structure of the program made the social dynamic a weird one. Every Saturday a handful of volunteers would leave the house and every Sunday a new batch would move in. And since most volunteers only stayed for two or three weeks, by the end of my four weeks, there was not a single person left in the house who was there when I first arrived. So one hand I had the chance to meet a lot of new people, but it was also hard to forge deep friendships in such a short amount of time.
For my construction work, I was placed at a school building located in the hilly poor outskirts of Cusco. I was lucky enough to work on this site for the entire month. So by a couple weeks, I knew the site backwards and forwards. Under the instruction of a local foreman named Marco (who did not speak a word of English) we plastered ceilings, cracked open carrizo (think cheap bamboo) with our hands, and installed ceilings on the outdoor bathrooms. No matter what we did each day, everyone left the site tired and dirty, which is a great feeling.
It is hard to sum up in a single closing paragraph what this month in Peru meant for me. It’s easy to throw around terms like “eyeopening” or “lifechanging” but the real impact this trip had on me cannot be put into words. But to simply have the chance to live in a foreign country for a full month is something I’ll never take for granted or ever forget.
Thomas Margiasso with the Safari Park Open Zoo in Thailand
This past January, I was able to volunteer for four weeks at the Safari Park Open Zoo in Kanchanaburi, Thailand with the help of the Honors Enrichment Award from the University of Delaware. I went on the trip with my roommate Brian Griffiths and our friend Justin Berg. Brian is an Environmental Engineering and Plant Science double major and Justin is a Pre-Vet and Biology double major here at UD. On a daily basis, volunteers at the Safari Park were responsible for cleaning animal enclosures, feeding the various animals, and creating enrichment for the animals in their free time. At the beginning of the day, we were divided into one of five teams: the Cat team, the Cubs team, the Rescue team, the Birds team, and the Ungulates team. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “ungulates” it has to do with the giraffes and zebras.
Personally, I was usually put with the Rescue team because I expressed my desire to build and create enrichment for the animals at the beginning of the trip. The animals at the “Rescue Retreat” are two gibbons, six macaques, one langur, two binturongs, two jackals, one cassowary, and several deer. After the morning enclosure cleanings and feedings were finished at about 10:30 AM, we usually had time to think about different improvements that we could make on the various enclosures. This could require constructing platforms, creating ladders for the monkeys to climb on, or hanging rope for the animals to swing on. As a civil engineering major though, I knew that I wanted to do a bigger project to really leave my mark on the Safari Park. That was when I was assigned to build an addition onto the current deer enclosure that would more than triple it in size.
Lacey Perdue in Cusco, Peru
Flying into Cusco was like entering another world. Gone was the perfectly oriented grid of illuminated streets in Miami and here was the one room shack on the mountainside; its tin roof barely being held down by cinder blocks. My experiences in Cusco are a reflection of all the typical perturbations that every American comes to realize as they bear witness to the shocking poverty in third world countries. The safety of first-world ignorance is inadvertently shattered and the desolation overpowering the majority of the world takes precedence in the mind in the form of an overwhelming state of dual helplessness, the peoples helplessness to change their situation and your helplessness to save them, inevitably resulting in obliterating hopelessness.
Idem to all Americans my ambition was to help the less fortunate in Cusco but this daunting challenge was quickly met by the limits of its unfeasibility. Daily I worked with people whose teeth had rotted down to vacant oozing black holes, whose nails had become the consistency of wood, and whose feet had never known a pair of true shoes in a mobile medical clinic that was provided with doctors native to the country. Through these clinics care was supplied that the people had no hope of obtaining otherwise. Overall, a total1365 people were helped in some way throughout the week, whether it was receiving fillings, medication, or pivotal health information as simple as how to brush your teeth. However, the fact remains that the clinics were the closest medical care facilities for some at a whopping eight hours away, prescriptions were limited by funds to over-the-counter American drugs such as Ibuprofen, and sustainment for the prescriptions was limited to a month. All of these facts supplicate questioning as to the impact volunteering can contribute in this medical form and as far and these statistics seem to go, it’s obvious they insinuate a negative. Despite this, to limit both the work being done by clinics and the people of Peru to heart-wrenching facts such as these would be an injustice left only to infomercials.
The true value of the clinics lies in the fact that they make accessible what is otherwise unattainable. Therefore, they create the possibility of freedom from drudging resignation to present circumstance. I have no doubt that the people experienced immediate benefit simply by the way they came from undeterminable distances with literally a sheep in hand; attesting to their past experiences and satisfaction with the clinics. My original qualm was with the long-term permanency of the treatment, but after experiencing the appreciativeness of the people, their respect towards the doctors, and their willing compliance in contrast to what I have witnessed in America I rest assured that my trip to Cusco was valuable. Not only was Iable to work alongside doctors who found helping others more important than their paycheck and who explained the reasoning for every treatment they administered, I was able to see firsthand the effect of accessibility on mentality. In America where everything is on demand this is a liberty that has diminished its value, but in Peru the relative rarity of access to anything results in its reception through thankfulness. Thus, adding to their quality of life unimaginably. The American way of life is in no means bad, to argue not to take advantage of the graces it presently offers would be harder than arguing idiocracy as an ideology, but to accept everything with thanksgiving would be an invaluable quality to procure from the Peruvians.
Consequently, it was the people walking down the fifteenth century cobblestone streets or across the mile high jungle covered mountains in their traditional alpaca shawls that made the trip worth it. Through them I was able to learn necessary information to prepare me for a medical career and to observe the intrinsic values of virtues simultaneously.
Nora Tang with World Wide Chile in Santiago, Chile
For a month this winter, I lived in Santiago, Chile, traveling to different parts of the country each weekend with World Wide Chile. During the week, I stayed in an apartment in Lastarria (seen above), a historical neighbourhood near lots of restaurants, museums, parks, and more. World Wide Chile is a very special program that sets up each student with an internship or volunteer placement in their field of interest. As a nursing student, I had the opportunity to work in the public health sector. For my first two weeks, I was in the women’s health department shadowing midwives, and OB/GYN, and her interns. The differences between a Labor & Delivery unit in Chile versus the States are astounding: when a woman (or girl, really) was fully dilated, she was wheeled into a surgical center, an episiotomy was immediately sliced (before she even starts to push!), and forceps were used if the baby was not coming quickly enough. Then, the placenta and cord were pulled out, and forceps were used to scrape the woman’s uterus clean. The brisk manner I encountered in L&D carried throughout the entire hospital. Because there are no nurses who work in women’s health, there was no one to bridge the doctorpatient gap; therefore, women were left exposed in their stirrups while doctors whispered to each other about the severity of each patient’s condition.
I don’t mean to sound too critical. My shadowing experience was amazing. Every doctor and intern went so far out of their way to make me feel welcome and useful. I attended rounds with all of the attendings; I went to sexuality lectures with the interns; one resident walked me through the medical records for his most interesting cases and that was only in the hospital! I spent my last two weeks in an outpatient health clinic in a much poorer part of Santiago. There, I sat in on consults with mental health patients, conducted psychomotor tests on children, helped with diabetes education, and changed a lot of wound dressings. This, for me, was incredibly rewarding. Though many people would have been appalled by the ulcers and holes (yes, some went all the way through) that I cleaned in my patients’ legs, I loved the handson practice. Not only did I get to hone skills I’ve learned with the University of Delaware, but I was able to use Spanish to explain to these strangers what I was doing and to ask them questions about how they got their injuries, what each medication did, etc.
Each weekend got better and better. We started with Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, and Paseo del Vino. After seeing Valparaiso (pictured above), I didn’t think I could love somewhere more. But the next weekend, we went to Valle del Elqui, proving me wrong. We stayed in a little hippie hostel where we were fed fresh bread and apricot jam every morning. We did a sunset hike to stargaze atop a mountain, and I fell in love even more. Then, we ended with the Atacama. This topped all else. Our last day, we watched the sunrise over a geyser field, and we watched it set as we hiked across a mountaintop. Basically, this experience was the best month of my life.
Ryan Leonard in Jordan with Think Unlimited
When I arrived in Jordan, I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew of the young NGO I had signed on to work for, Think Unlimited, was from a New York Times article that talked briefly about their work in the unassuming Arab country. Yet that article resonated with me so deeply that I sought out the founders, James and Shaylyn Garrett, to see if they would consider accepting an intern. It wasn’t a smooth process, but after 9 months of persistent communication and a Skype interview, they agreed to take me on as Think Unlimited’s first intern.
I soon learned the company was in a state of transition. They were moving away from the high school summer camps, termed “Brain Camps,” and teacher training, “Brain Builders,” to enter the university classroom. To help with this new phase, I was tasked with carving out our narrative in a regional context. That meant finding Jordan’s story amidst all sorts of books, articles, and reports on MENA-region education reform, the burgeoning Arab youth bulge, and the Arab Spring.
Although the bulk of my work involved research, I did get the chance to go work with one of our Brain Camps. In the conservative village of Taybeh, I lived with Peace Corps volunteers for a week to help run the camp activities and administer pre and post examinations to collect data for Think Unlimited. The goal of the Brain Camps is to teach critical thinking and creativity to Jordanian high school students through a series of activities and presentations. It wasn’t easy. Despite eight years of English, the students could hardly speak a word. Behavior problems persisted throughout the week, as it was near impossible to hold their attention for more than a few minutes at a time. I was admittedly disheartened, and I longed for my time in Tunisia speaking to the best and brightest young embassy students.
Jordan showed me just what I was up against. The truth about education reform in the Middle East, which is often criticized for its preference for rote memorization over critical analysis, is that change will not come easy. There are political, cultural, and religious barriers that are deeply entrenched within MENA society. 1 and 4 Arab youths are unemployed, and those with university degrees are no exception. Women are often, both voluntarily and involuntarily, shut out of the workforce, despite better test performance and higher university participation. High-stakes tests, like Jordan’s Tawjihi, insulate high schools from creativity and innovation. My task seemed more daunting than ever.
But with Think Unlimited came hope. Wary of how difficult it was to change education at the high school level, our company turned its attention to the universities, considered the hub of the knowledge economy. Through a yearlong course in innovation and entrepreneurship, we hope to prepare a corps of social entrepreneurs that will seek creative and sustainable solutions throughout the region. To help with this, I sifted through thousands of pages of often technical writing to understand and explain our new image. My final report, accompanied with an hour and a half presentation to our staff, was well received.
In Jordan, it wasn’t all work for me. I saw the beautiful architecture of Petra, spent a few days in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and got the chance to meet Jon Stewart of the Daily Show. I learned more than I could have imagined about MENA region education reform and how Jordan fits into the discussion. Most importantly, I met brilliant, caring people that share my passions and goals for improving education in the Middle East. None of this would have been possible without the Honors Program and their generous Honors Enrichment Award.
Erika van ‘t Veld in Thailand at the Pun Pun Farm
I started my trip to Thailand wanting to learn about how people in a different culture live more sustainably, backed by their unique cultural views about the importance of nature and our duty to protect it. When I stayed at Pun Pun Farm in the Mae Taeng region of northern Thailand near Chiang Mai, I thought the residents would be purposely living meagerly, at subsistence level, to put the environment first because of Buddhist beliefs. In reality, the people there had mostly the same standard of living, just without the unnecessary luxuries that I am used to having in the U.S. The residents, regardless of their religion and previous experiences, are people who opened their eyes and realized what a danger the ‘typical’ human consumerist-based lifestyle is to the planet. They moved out to Pun Pun to break the cycle for themselves and concentrate on harmony with self, community, and nature, which I was able to do as well in this pristine setting. The lifestyle I actually experienced was hardly as difficult as I thought it would be, if I stayed open-minded and flexible about some trivial aspects of life such as having no plumbing, warm showers, or walls that keep bugs and lizards out of a room. Overall it was one of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences in my life so far.
Pun Pun’s main aspects can be divided into three categories, and from all three I learned some valuable lessons. The first is organic gardening, and the gardens where volunteers and residents both work for 5-6 hours per day. I learned the first day when I was out in the sweltering Thai summer day, plowing and weeding through the garden beds, that this work is extremely physically strenuous, and I gained a new appreciation for the millions of farmers around the world who do this every day to provide the food we eat. It was inspiring to be involved directly in the process of garden-to-plate food production, especially since in the U.S. we hardly ever see where our food actually comes from. Pun Pun has 20 permanent residents and an average of 30-50 volunteers during tourist season, but the farm’s 9 acres are still able to provide 60-70% of the food consumed.
The second aspect of Pun Pun is natural, or earthen, building, which is constructing using naturally available materials such as straw, bamboo, mud, or ‘trash’. All of the buildings at the farm were made using this method because Jon Jandai, the founder of Pun Pun, is an expert in this subject, and has traveled Thailand teaching other farmers his techniques. Not only is this a cost-effective way to build a home, it is also easy to do, sturdy, sustainable, and beautiful. After living in an earthen dormitory for the duration of my stay, I can say that it is comfortable too. The ease at which these earthen homes can be built makes me want to build one of my own someday on my own land. It seems ridiculous to me now to take out a loan and spend half my life repaying it just to get a decent house in the U.S. when I can built one for virtually no money if I use this method.
The last and most emphasized aspect of Pun Pun is seed saving, or collecting and distributing indigenous seeds from Thailand to other interested organic farmers in the region. The main seed that I worked on harvesting during my stay was from the amaranth plant, which required first picking the small bunches of seeds off the plant stem, rubbing them between my hands until the larger part of the shell came off, then sifting off the finer layers of shell until tiny black seeds emerge that are about a millimeter wide. The patience that it takes to sit and sift and rub the seeds for hours just to get one teaspoon full of amaranth seeds that will be given away for free to other farmers, is something that is not easily attained. The residents of Pun Pun realize that saving seeds is the future, so they work tirelessly and without any compensation besides reassurance that they are doing something great for the environment. I think this is a great message for citizens of the world: we should all give up some of our time to take care of our mother Earth because even if it seems like we’re not getting anything in return, we’re really taking small steps to ensure a good life for our future generations.
What I loved about Pun Pun was the feeling of community, and how I was immediately adopted into their family of residents just by being a volunteer. To live on a mostly self-reliant farm means working, living, and socializing communally so everyone has to do less individual work. It was encouraging to be surrounded by a group of people who enjoy living as part of nature so much. It was most inspiring for me to meet Jon Jandai who taught me many life lessons that I will keep with me for the rest of my life. He said the critical thing for people to do around the world is to consume less. Currently we consume so much and don’t give resources a chance to build back up, which is not a sustainable way to live. To consume less and live an easier lifestyle, people can come to Pun Pun or make a farm on their own. You only have to work a couple of hours a day, and spend the rest of the time as a family and learning more about yourself without any distractions. He said “Life is easy, we just make it hard on ourselves”. I learned it was my own expectations and prejudices about the difficulty of living a natural lifestyle that prevented me from trying to change my way of life. Once these barriers were broken down, it really is the easiest, most rewarding thing to live on a place like Pun Pun farm.
Lukas Campolo in Munich
For the past three months I have been living in Munich, Germany, participating in an undergraduate research program through the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich, and experiencing firsthand the German culture. It has been an incredible learning experience unlike any I have had previously. Before I elaborate, I would like to thank the University of Delaware Honors Program for giving the funding for travel to this program, and allowing me to participate.
While in Germany, I have been researching in a lab under a German Professor, Dr. Thomas Bein. The work has been both fulfilling and successful, and has further shaped the development of my future career path. I was working on synthesizing and characterizing novel organic frameworks for future use in solar cells, as a cheaper alternative to silicon- based solar cells. The materials are quite new to the field of chemistry, so working in this lab was a great opportunity to work on the cutting edge of a species of compound that as of yet has been studied very little. In my twelve week program, I was able to synthesize and study a brand new type of these organic frameworks, which due to the dearth of these compounds that have been synthesized, is not a trivial accomplishment in only three months of work.
In addition to the work itself, I was able to make professional contacts with many different scientists, both in Germany and from the states. I have plans to keep in contact with my own research lab here in Munich, and to hopefully provide help on the future development of my project. I also was able to attend many talks and two conferences, one organized by LMU and the other organized by the program I participated in, DAAD RISE. This summer has exposed me to the cutting edge of solar-based nano-materials research, a growing and exciting field that I am now considering entering upon graduating.
But, I did far more than just work in a lab this summer. Living in Munich and conversing with the locals has given me insight into a completely different mindset. What is most interesting is that the Germans are in many ways just like Americans; yet, there are also many differences in opinion and lifestyle. In Munich especially, people are quite proud in their heritage, going as far as wearing lederhosen regularly. They also have completely different opinions on issues such as public health care, higher education, taxes and conservation of the environment. Especially interesting was being in Germany during the NSA/Snowden scandal, as the citizens here were very informed and opinionated about government surveillance, and always interested in discussing it with an American. Being exposed to these different ideas through firsthand discussion has opened my eyes to new opinions, a worthwhile experience as a young person. I was also able to travel around much of Germany and the surrounding countries. I saw many fascinating historical sights, and learned much about the history and culture of Europe. From wandering around the canals of Amsterdam, to climbing up to a castle in Prague, I have gained an appreciation for a history that goes back far earlier than the US.
All in all, I had an incredibly educational, fulfilling and, most importantly, fun summer. Even as I write this I already miss Munich, and plan on returning to Europe as often as I can.
Joe Zarraga in the Philippines with Operation Smile
For the past two summers, I have been privileged to be able to travel to Guatemala to partake in medical mission trips, loving the people I met and the work we were able to accomplish in just a few weeks. With medical school (hopefully) in the near future, I wanted to continue this journey to see and do more while I had the chance. Although a first generation American-Filipino, I had never actually visited the Philippines; I realized that this summer might be the last opportunity to do so for some time. With the help of the Honors Enrichment Awards, I was able to travel to the Philippines to finally experience my culture, while volunteering with an organization that I have respected for quite some time – Operation Smile.
After 26 hours of traveling, I arrived in the Philippines with an open mind, pledging to try everything that I could fit into two short weeks of touring the country. The pieces started to fit together and I started to recollect the stories from relatives that I have heard since childhood. The thick smog, endless traffic, and torrential rains were all present, right outside the airport exit.
However, when the smog clears and the storms cease, the Philippines shows a different side. Although filled with governmental corruption and high levels of poverty, one cannot help but find the country endearing. The people are pleasant and extremely hospitable, and the culture is centered around the value of respect. For example, when greeting elders, it is customary to take their hand and bring it to your forehead in hope of their blessing and wisdom to be handed down – this is called “mano po.”
I stayed in the two of the main metropolitan areas, Manila and Quezon City, for the majority of my stay. Known for their shopping malls, sky rise towers, and restaurants, there is no shortage of activities. In the United States, eating traditional Filipino cuisine is limited to rare occasions; I made sure to have my fill of dishes that I have not had in years.
One of my hosts in the Philippines, Dr. Santos, is a plastic surgeon, who informed me prior to the trip that I was welcomed to be a volunteer with Operation Smile, an internationally respected non-profit that hosts corrective surgery clinics for those who are born with cleft lip and palates. These gaps (in the lip or palate) can cause many problems including inabilities to eat, speak, socialize, and smile. For 30 years, over 200,000 children around the world have had free surgeries. I was lucky enough to witness these operations inside the operating rooms while asking questions, a type of exposure that most premedical students never have. In only three short days, the mission had over 80 successful operations and changed many more lives.
While volunteering at that same hospital, I came across a much more common case. This girl, less than a year old, was obviously malnourished and anemic, desperately needing a blood transfusion that the parents did not want (they could not afford it). Another volunteer and I made it our side project on our last day to do everything we could to care for this child. After driving around the rural town, we found a Red Cross, who sold us the blood that we needed. The cost? 1500 Pesos, which coverts to less than 35 US dollars.
This is the unfortunate reality of many countries around the world. While I have always been interested in medicine from an early age, traveling to these places and taking part in medical missions have solidified my career decision. Seeing the stark contrast between health conditions in first and third world countries inspires me to become a doctor, to be one day able to assist these deserving people in the best way I know how. Once again, with the help of the Honors Enrichment Awards, I have been reminded of why I continue my current academic path; it has shown me a glimpse of what my future can possibly be. This time around, I am even more thankful that my experience allowed me to visit the place that my parents called home; now more than ever, I feel proud to be a Filipino.
Kelsey Johnson at the Equine Science Symposium
When I first enrolled in the honors section of the Equine Management capstone course, I had no idea that the class would ultimately teach me more professional skills than any other class I have taken so far at the University of Delaware. As part of the course, a group of five honors students, including myself, were responsible for developing promotional materials, researching content, creating PowerPoints, and delivering presentations for an equine behavior short course. The short course was designed in partnership with the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension, which aims to educate the public on practical topics in agriculture. Thirty-five Delaware horse owners and twenty students in the non-honors section of the Equine Management course attended the short course. Not only did the short course itself teach me a wide array of professional skills, such as how to communicate effectively with an adult audience, it also provided the survey results and content that I utilized to write an abstract for publication. My abstract entitled “Engaging Undergraduate Students in the Development and Delivery of Equine Extension Programming” was accepted into the undergraduate competition at the Equine Science Symposium and published in a supplement to the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.
Through the aid of the Honors Enrichment Award, I was able to travel to the Equine Science Symposium held this past May in Mescalero, New Mexico. Upon arriving in New Mexico, I was blown away by the beauty of the landscape, especially the lake right outside my hotel room. Mountains completely surrounded the hotel and conference center, and even though the land was a bit dry, the trees were still gorgeous.
As part of the undergraduate competition, judges analyzed my scientific merit, accuracy, clarity, organization, and use of visual aids in both my abstract and presentation. While I will admit that I was very nervous about delivering my presentation, it went extremely well. Afterward, many people came up to me and asked questions, stated how they wanted to utilize a similar program at their university, or complimented me on my confidence and enthusiasm when speaking (I hide my nervousness well). Receiving such positive feedback made me even more proud of my work; I was able to generate discussion to help increase the level of student involvement in cooperative extension programing.
Not only did this conference help me become a better presenter and teach others a novel way to educate their students, I was also able to meet many researchers and graduate students from other universities. Some of the people I met were the authors of journal articles that I had read prior to the conference, which was particularly exciting for me. I also learned new information in many categories of equine science, such as exercise physiology, nutrition, management, and education, through attending many presentations throughout the course of the symposium. On the final day of the conference, I even experienced the speed and power of Quarter Horse racing, which was both a unique learning experience and a lot of fun!
When the awards were announced on the final night of the conference, I was disappointed to learn that I did not place in the competition. However, my true mission at the conference was completed—to educate equine extension specialists and professors on how they could engage their undergraduate students in extension programming. Through my presentation and abstract, I was able to reach a large audience of professionals and promote the University of Delaware as a model for other universities. This meant more to me than any award.
Lauren Gallagher’s Internship at the UN
From mid-January to the end of March 2013, I worked as an intern in the political office of the US Mission to the United Nations in New York. My duties included attending Security Council sessions and other negotiations to take notes, drafting memos regarding such meetings, and writing summaries of reports outlining the progress of various UN missions throughout the world. I would also occasionally escort visitors through the US Mission and run errands for my colleagues in the office. Because of tight security in the US Mission and the UN, I was unable to take photos of my workspace. However, I can provide pictures of other aspects of my time in New York. For instance, this is where I lived:
This is the view from my window and from the roof of the building:
This man was a staffer from the Danish embassy; I met him in a negotiation on Afghanistan:
Another view of the city:
This internship experience was invaluable to me, on both an academic and professional level. Academically, my experiences in the office largely reflected what I have been taught in my courses at UD. In the introduction to international relations course (POSC 240), for example, we learned how the process of negotiations generally develops, with discussions first over logistics like the venue of the talks and gradually progressing toward more substantive issues. Several times in my internship, upon hearing my colleagues describe the steps they were taking to reach compromises with foreign governments, I witnessed this negotiation process in action. Although these diplomats were not likely to be following a step-by-step plan the way I had been taught, I was able to see that the measures they took largely followed the rules I had learned. Other knowledge from UD that played a key role in my experience was the understanding of how our political process and our system of government work. What the general public, and even some foreign diplomats at the UN, often fail to realize is that America’s ability to actually encourage action by the UN is limited by the structure of our government. Even when the staff of the US Mission is able to reach agreement with the missions of other countries on a resolution or a treaty, for instance, these arrangements have little to no real-world effect in the US without approval from other branches of government. I observed an example of this when our office was working tirelessly with other countries to negotiate an arms trade treaty to impose stricter rules regarding the movement of weapons worldwide. After months of painstaking negotiations, a compromise was finally reached in the UN and a treaty with language acceptable to all sides was drafted. However, this treaty will not be binding in the United States unless it is ratified by the Senate. Even as our diplomats were aggressively trying to complete the treaty, they were well aware that it stood little chance of garnering Senate approval. This experience highlighted to me how domestic political concerns can interfere with and complicate negotiations with other countries.
In addition to strengthening the knowledge I have learned at UD, this internship experience has helped me in my contemplation of a future career. My favorite aspect of working at the US Mission was the writing of memos and report summaries. Indeed, my time at the UN has convinced me that I do not want to pursue a career in diplomacy. However, because the writing aspects of my internship were my most enjoyable (and elicited the most praise from my supervisors), I have become more assured that I would like to work in a field, like journalism or publishing, that involves writing. Another valuable aspect of this experience is the contacts I have made with my colleagues. I am proud to say that everyone in my office was very pleased with my work, and several expressed willingness to provide letters of recommendation in the future. Even if I do not ultimately end up working in government, the relationships I have formed in my time at the US Mission will be useful in my future job search. With such sincere recommendations from people whom I’ve come to greatly respect, I feel confident that I will at least be able to “get my foot in the door” of whatever industry I ultimately choose. Overall, my internship at the US Mission was exciting, interesting, educational, and beneficial, and I will be forever grateful that I was able, through the generosity of the Honors Program, to participate in such an experience.
Victoria Stanhope’s MEDLIFE Spring Break Trip
Spending spring break in Ecuador delivering medical care to unreached communities was the best decision I have ever made in my college career. This experience was all made possible by the Scholar Enrichment Award and for that, I am truly grateful. For seven days I assisted in medical care delivery, built a bathroom, and explored the foreign land of Ecuador. I learned what serving truly means by interacting with the Ecuadorean children and connecting with the community.
The primary mission of this trip was to deliver medical care to several villages that legitimately have zero chance of receiving health care otherwise. Eight communities were reached, two each day for four days, and received basic examinations by a doctor, dentist and gynecologist. The adults learned about sexual health, nutrition, cancers, diabetes, and other illnesses at an education station while the children received instructions on brushing their teeth and washing their hands. I was taken aback by the overwhelming eagerness these individuals had to learn about their health. I had expected slight hesitation because foreigners were intruding on their communities but it was entirely the opposite. MEDlife did an incredible job being culturally sensitive: the medical team was comprised of local Ecuadorean professionals while the instructions and pamphlets were written in the local language. Personally, I served in the doctor, pharmacy, and education stations and learned how essential the simple medications were for them to receive.
Throughout interacting with the adults and children, I learned that serving does not mean solely providing physical effort – it means caring about these people and showing them love through mental, emotional, and physical acts of selflessness. Individuals were so excited for us to be standing next to them that they just wanted to hold our hands – it did not matter to them that you could not speak Spanish well or verbally communicate, they just wanted your company and love. That is what I really learned this trip; it’s the people that matter, not the service you provide.
Along with our health promotion mission, all 54 of us took rotations assisting in the construction of a community bathroom. These communities drink the water they excrete in. And bathe in. At least 80% of these children have parasites because of it and it’s an outright disservice to them not to be moved to help. Along with this, I could not help but realize how joyful these children were when I interacted with them. After the clinics we played games with them and their smiles lit up the city, but in the doctor station I saw all of these reasons for them to lack that joy. But they never stopped smiling. It makes you wonder how Americans would react if they were in these children’s places. The bathroom will prevent a gigantic amount of the parasite infections that inflict this community and allow them to pursue education and a better quality of life.
At the end of the week, the community’s overwhelming gratitude for the bathroom actually made me feel that I didn’t deserve all of their thankfulness – all I did was put in a few hours wheel-barrowing rocks and sand. Of course I would do this to help them, it would never cross my mind to do otherwise. I didn’t deserve their thankfulness – I should have been the one thanking them for allowing me to serve them with the limited skills I had.
After the clinics had run their course, we daily explored Ecuador and fully immersed ourselves in what the country had to offer. We explored the dark depths of caves, slopped through the thick vegetation in the Amazon Rainforest, sped through the murky rivers on canoes, and buzzed around the bright markets of Quito. This country is amazing. Every day was something new that made me fall in love with the land, the people, and the lifestyle of Ecuador. It was all I could do not to stay behind and live there for the rest of my life. The Ecuadorean joy and satisfaction sharply contrasts the whiny want of Americans and it’s been an adjustment to return. There are so many other experiences out there to be had, people to show love to by serving them, and land to be explored. I want to experience it all!
As mentioned earlier, the Scholar Enrichment Award made this incredible experience possible and I am entirely grateful to have been given this chance.
William Rodowsky in Peru
Boarding the plane for Peru, I was unsure what to expect. After an evening layover in Miami spent exploring South Beach, and an early morning layover in Lima, I arrived in Arequipa. Exiting the plane, I immediately noticed the three mountains that look down over Peru’s second largest city: Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu, as Eduardo, my fifty-‐something cab driver would explain to me in broken English.
Eduardo took me to the Volunteer House, where my roommates -‐ five girls from Washington State, Australia, France, and New Zealand, met me at the door. After two days familiarizing myself with Arequipa, I reported to the Traveller Not Tourist office to pay my rent deposit and go to the orphanage. Another group, Operation Groundswell from Canada, happened to be in the office at the same time and asked if I would like to help them with a manual labor project before starting at the orphanage.
I agreed, and spent the next 3 days in Los Olivos, a rural community of stone houses at the base of Misti. The project was to build concrete fence for Sr. Luna, a skinny, elderly man who lived alone. After removing his current fence of rocks, or piedras, we dug out the ground, set the foundation, and started to build the fence with the help of Renee, a local builder. After two days of digging and shoveling concrete mix into cement mixer, my hands developed sets of bloody blisters; even under the thick gloves I wore.
After my new Canadian friends left Arequipa, I started work at the orphanage (Casa Hogar). There were two daily shifts of part-‐time volunteers who worked with the permanent volunteers, or tias, who lived in the orphanage. When I was assigned the morning shift, I would wake up at 5:30 a.m. to leave enough time to shower and catch the combie, a smaller, overcrowded bus, to make it to Casa Hogar by 7 a.m. The afternoon shift went to 1 to 7 p.m. The only boy volunteering at the orphanage, I wasn’t immediately trusted to work with the younger children or babies, as they usually assigned this work to female volunteers. My first couple weeks at the orphanage I would sweep, mop the floors, clean up toys, do the laundry, and anything else asked of me. When there weren’t any chores to do, I would play with the children.
Slowly, I became trusted with more and more roles. By the end of my time at the orphanage, I was feeding babies, taking the older kids out in the street to play, reading to them, and was asked to stay and eat lunch or dinner with the kids almost every time I worked.
With a week left on my trip, I took three days off from work to travel by myself to Machu Picchu. Leaving Arequipa on an overnight bus, I arrived in Cusco, where I spent a half-‐day before taking a colectivo, or shared cab ride, through winding dirt roads to Ollantaytambo. From there, I took a train to Aguas Calientes, a small town at the base of Machu Picchu.
Waking up at 4:30 a.m. to pouring rain, I walked to the bus station to beat the crowd as part of the first wave of visitors. But over the course of my three-‐hour tour and two-‐hour hike of Machu Picchu Mountain, the weather cleared up. I returned to my hostel exhausted, sunburned, and satisfied with my trip.
Shreya at Gap Medics Program in Thailand
by Shreya Jammula
The Honors Enrichment Award enabled me to participate in the Gap Medics Program – Thailand. Gap Medics is a pre-medical program with participants from all over the world and has global sites including Zanzibar, Tanzania and Central Europe. I stayed with a group of 25 other students from Australia, England, New Zealand, Moldova, China & USA in the Gap Medics House. While most people stay for 2 weeks, I chose to stay for 3 weeks and every week, we had different placements often at different hospitals. My placements were general surgery, neurology and anesthesiology, which was very similar to general surgery. I was assigned a specific doctor as my mentor for each week whom I shadowed on patient rounds both in the hospital, to outpatient clinics and to the operating theatres.
The best part of this experience and the sole reason I wanted to do this program was because I could be in the operating theatres while the surgeons operated. As soon as I got to the hospital, I would change into scrubs & appropriate shoes, cover my hair and wear a mask before following my mentor to different surgeries. During my first and third week, I got to experience a broad range of surgeries including craniotomy, Caesarean section, knee reconstruction, laminectomy (spinal surgery), hysterectomy, cataract removal, colectomy, nephrolithotomy, appendectomy, cholecystectomy, lipoma and skin graft among others. My second week at the Neurological Hospital was different from my other weeks but no less enjoyable. I observed surgeries only twice that week, both of which were incredibly complicated surgeries that were upwards of 6 hours. The rest of the week was spent visiting the ICU, where the doctor presented to us patient charts and x-rays and asked us to diagnose the patient before taking us through the patient history and treatment plan; physical and occupational therapy, where we got to experience some of the equipment used on patients; stroke unit & dementia clinic.
Aside from work, we also had plenty of time to have fun! The program was located in Chiang Mai, which is an hour’s flight from Bangkok. Our house was situated 30 minutes from the city center in a secluded area. A typical workday was from 9-5 (could vary based on where you were placed) so after work, most of us would often go into town. After 5pm every day, the night bazar would open up, which offered us endless entertainment. Pretty much everything, from fake designer clothing to souvenirs to bootleg DVDs, can be found there! On the weekends, we did more sight-seeing and activities. My first weekend there, we went elephant riding, bamboo rafting and went to a waterfall – all in one day! The other day, we went zip lining, which was an amazing experience. My second weekend, I did more cultural activities, such as visit the Doi Suthep Temple and went on a tour of the famous White Temple in Chiang Rai. The tour also included a visit to the hot springs, Opium Museum and to an island of Laos that specializes in snake whiskey!
Best experience I had during my trip: got to observe an emergency craniotomy. A patient was rushed in because he had a hematoma (blood accumulated outside brain but inside skull), which was complicated by his history of epileptic seizures. I saw the surgeon cut open the skull, remove the massive clot, put the skull back on and suture the skin. This experience alone made the whole trip worthwhile – there was no way I could have ever seen such an emergency surgery in America unless I was already a doctor.
Liz returns to Bangladesh
by Liz Hetterly
In this experience, I developed skills in qualitative research methods and learned about the social and economic environment that shapes the reproductive health of married adolescent girls in Bangladesh. In my previous trip to Bangladesh last summer, my work focused on designing a population-based survey and analyzing quantitative data. This winter I was very fortunate to complement that experience in quantitative research with skills in qualitative research. The majority of my trip was spent doing in-depth interviews with married adolescent girls living in urban slums, to determine their perceptions of family planning services, barriers to accessing these services, and their reproductive decision-making. I learned that married adolescent girls face significant pressure to meet social and familial expectations around when to have children and how many to have, and how this pressure along with poor economic conditions can affect their health and autonomy
I would tell students who are planning to go to another country to an Honors Enrichment Award experience to really do their research about that country beforehand. In my case, I had already been to Bangladesh once before so I knew exactly what to expect. But thinking back to my first time in Bangladesh, I know how helpful it was to have read up about the country beforehand – the history, the current political situation, the culture, etc. The quality of your experience is often determined by the extent to which you can adapt to and engross yourself in the culture of that particular country, and that process is made easier by doing research beforehand to prepare yourself so you know what to expect. Before you go, read about the history of the country, find out who the most popular writers and artists are, buy a map, try to learn some of the language, meet someone from that country who lives in the U.S. and ask them for advice, find out what the style of dress is, etc. etc. Doing this, along with keeping an open mind, will determine the difference between an ordinary experience and an extraordinary one.
Andi Goes to Cape Town
by Andrea Diorio
This winter break I spent 3 weeks in Cape Town, South Africa with Cross Cultural Solutions, an international volunteer placement program. Each morning from 8:00am to 1:00pm, I spent volunteering with 3 of my friends at Fikelela Children’s Center, where we cared for and played with the children. Fikelela, which means “to reach out,” serves as a temporary home for children, ranging from infant to age 8, who are in the process of looking for foster care. These children have been orphaned, abandoned, abused and/or neglected by their parents. Many of them were left at the hospital after birth, left at a social worker center, or taken from their homes by a social worker due to abuse or neglect. South Africa has very strict adoption laws, so in order to adopt a child, he or she must be under 6 months old, and it must be proven that his or her parents are deceased AND his or her grandparents are incapable of caring for them. Because of this, adoption occurs very rarely and foster care is much more common.
Fikelela is located in the Khayelitsha township, the biggest one in Cape Town with over 1 million people living there. These townships are made up of homes, but nothing like what we’d consider an actual home here in the U.S. They are mainly made out of scrap metal and are smaller than what we’d consider a shed or garage. Seeing these living conditions in person was unbelievable, nothing like how it feels to see it in a picture or movie.
After volunteering in the morning, I either had free time or a cultural and learning activity with our program. I, along with the rest of my program, were able to do a variety of new and fun things, like going to tour Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned, and eating ostrich and crocodile at a traditional African restaurant, and even spending an evening learning about the history of South Africa and how far it has come. I learned more about South Africa than I had ever expected. As the world’s youngest democracy (democratic since 1994), the history of the country is actually quite similar to the United States, just decades and decades behind. They are headed in such a positive direction, yet the poor effects of apartheid still linger with racial segregation as a very apparent and noticeable issue there. Learning about its history and current political climate and then being able to see it myself, whether while volunteering or exploring the city, was something I will never forget.
The greatest lesson I will take away from my time in Cape Town is that money and material things really cannot buy you happiness. Compared to what we are used to, these kids have very limited resources and really are not getting the attention, both physical and emotional, that they deserve. However, these were some of the sweetest and happiest kids that I have ever met. They don’t know what iPads or iPhones are. They don’t get to eat at nice restaurants. They have the very minimum but they are still so happy and loving. And although hearing that is inspirational, being able to see it and experience it in person was so real and eye opening. Those children will always have a very special place in my heart and saying goodbye to them was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever had to do. But just like South Africa itself, there is so much hope for their future and I pray that they each grow up to meet the potential that I could see in each of them.
Mel Goes to Ghana
by Melanie Allen
For Blue Hens, Winter Session is a perfect opportunity to travel. During this time, one has the chance to go home for a few weeks after finals, enjoy some home-made cooking and holiday celebrations, then hit the road! This is my third Winter Session spent travelling, however this trip was very different to my prior adventures trips which were primarily for recreation. Upon receiving an Honors Enrichment Award, I spent the last four weeks working with a locally run NGO in Ghana that focuses on environmental conservation issues.
My most recent travel to Ghana this past summer inspired my decision to apply for an Honors Enrichment Award. I had the opportunity to work in the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Department at the University of Cape Coast, where I assessed the water quality of three lagoons heavily used for human consumption. My project revealed that these lagoons were only able to support a limited number of species, and those that were able to survive in these waters were considered pollutant tolerant organisms able to withstand hostile conditions. These findings were not surprising as when I visited these lagoons for sampling, pollution was extremely noticeable with evidence of an unsustainable public waste management system. I conversed with several professors at the University of Cape Coast, inquiring about the root of the problem because I was having difficulties understanding why little had been done to clean up this area that local people utilized on a daily basis. Was it lack of research or education? Inadequate infrastructure? Were the locals aware that pollution was the primary cause of the recorded decrease in size and occurrence of blackfin tilapia, one of the primary sources of protein for this coastal community? Unfortunately, due to the brevity of my stay in Ghana and commitment to direct lab work, I had little interaction with the affected community to find answers to these many questions. When my summer abroad came to an end, I felt both my personal and intellectual quests in Ghana were left unresolved.
Upon return to the U.S., my investigation continued as I dove deeper into understanding how environmental degradation was approached in a developing country. A professor that I worked with over the summer connected me with, CEIA, the Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis. This organization integrates environmental concerns into various policy fields and takes a community based conservation approach to Ghana’s challenges by focusing on public awareness and environmental education.
One way that CEIA has approached this is by establishing environmental clubs in primary and junior high schools in the Cape Coast area, with the intention of encouraging eco-friendly behaviors and interests at a young age. These clubs were started in 2009, but since then have been fairly inactive due to little intervention from CEIA after establishment. One of the main projects that myself and another volunteer were working on was enhancing educational materials for these clubs to use during their meetings. This involved creating a “curriculum” for these clubs, focusing on a variety of environmental topics such as pollution and waste management, water quality, climate change and habitat loss. We would visit the clubs weekly to better understand the kind of activities they were currently doing, as well as ensure that the faculty advisors had input on what topics were being incorporated in these lesson plans. Each lesson plan had a two page summary explaining what the issue was, group activities to complete as a class, discussion questions, and a take home message to encourage the students to engage their families in these topics.
The other main project I had the chance to be involved with was organizing a community clean up exercise at Fosu lagoon, one of my sampling sites from the summer. This involved a collective effort, and the cooperation of multiple stakeholders. We asked the professors from the Department of Fisheries to participate in an education seminar that was held prior to the clean-up, discussing past research and results conducted in this lagoon, as well as the adverse health risks from consuming fish in polluted waters. We also involved Cylcus Recycling, a company that buys back plastic garbage, one of the main waste found in these lagoons, to discuss how recycling has potential to bring in income for the community. Zoom Lion, a waste management company provided the tools for the clean-up, and the students from the Environmental Clubs served as the main clean-up volunteers, though we had several local fisherman and community members participate in the event.
From this experience I had the chance to discover how a collaborative effort between science, the government, and local culture can create and build solutions to urgent environmental challenges.
Working directly with CEIA enabled me to develop a greater understanding of a foreign culture and development and the Honors Enrichment Award has truly shaped my future endeavors.
Anada Marga Organic Peach Farm
by Jock Gilchrist
From January 6th to the 26th, I worked on the Ananda Marga Organic Peach Farm in the mountains of the Angeles National Forest in southern California. The name is a bit misleading, however—we spent several days uprooting dozens of dead and dying peach trees and transplanting young cherry, apple, pear, and persimmon trees in their place.
But every day on the farm was slightly different from the one before it. In addition to tree maintenance, we also harvested vegetables from two greenhouses, planted cover crops, gathered fertile black soil from the forest, cleaned up debris from the remains of an old trailer, planted vegetable seedlings, demolished a windmill, made baskets from chicken wire, planted cacti around the perimeter for security against unwanted animals, and cut lilac shoots to sell in the spring. The manual labor was challenging but incredibly satisfying, and we went to sleep at night feeling the tangible results of our work through the ache of our bodies.
The farm is owned by a monk who practices a combination of Tantric and Vedic traditions originating in ancient India. He spent around 3 hours a day in meditation and was surprisingly energetic for a man of around 50. Another volunteer and I took part in an evening singing ritual and half-hour meditation with him. Though the specifics of his religions’ philosophy didn’t strike a deep chord with me, it was interesting to be immersed in it for my stay there.
As part of his spiritual beliefs, and by virtue of the fact that it’s an organic fruit and vegetable farm, the diet was vegan, and also excluded garlic, onions, teas, and coffees, all of which supposedly have stimulating effects on the mind. There wasn’t a single processed food item in the house, and we baked our own bread every day and made nut butters often. This diet endowed me with ridiculous amounts of energy and left my body feeling happy and light. I’ve since made a more serious commitment to a vegetarian diet and buying unprocessed food and more vegetables.
The nearest town to the farm was a small one of about 500 people. In fact the farm was so isolated that we only left twice during my entire stay to travel to LA for a group meditation and dinner. The natural setting really gave me the chance to get back “to my roots,” so to speak. The house lacked several amenities that I realized I tend to take for granted, like heat and hot water. But the more dramatic absence was of the degree of social engagement I had become accustomed to at home and at school. For two weeks there was only one other volunteer and I with the monk (a third volunteer arrived for the last week). The withdrawal of the little comforts in my life ended up reminding me how blessed I am.
Also, being that there was no TV and slow internet and cell service, there wasn’t as much opportunity for entertainment and distraction. With the noise of our culture gone, there was nothing to do but face myself and my thoughts fully. This allowed me to do some real soul-searching about my ambitions, personality, and relationships to a depth that I don’t think would have been possible elsewhere. I left the farm feeling extremely invigorated and confident about the coming semester and what lies beyond that.
International Plant and Animal Genome Conference
by Casey Spencer
The generosity and support of the Honors Program allowed me to attend an international conference at which I displayed a poster of my research. Honestly, I did not know what to expect when I packed for San Diego. I was unsure if everyone would be in suits and heels or jeans and sneakers. I was relieved when I arrived and found that most people were dressed casually and seemed laid-back. I was clearly one of the youngest attendees. The informal atmosphere allowed me to feel comfortable even when most of the attendees had doctorates and decades of research experience while I am only an undergraduate with half a year’s worth of research.
I will be attending veterinary school in the fall and took this opportunity to explore different applications of genetics research in veterinary medicine. My research is focused on poultry genetics and feed efficiency. While it is an important field, I intend for my research to be medically groundbreaking. About half the speakers discussed animal genetics. I attended as many animal-based workshops, in which I learned about the genetic diseases of horses, dogs, cats, cattle and swine. Truthfully, I had no idea genetics was so present in veterinary research. As the conference went on, my excitement for my future profession increased and I was looking forward to developing research projects of my own.
At times the conference was beyond my undergraduate education. However, I managed to stay positive and focus on the objectives of researchers and rather than their exact methods of analysis, which always involved computer programming (something I have very little experience in). This was also my first opportunity for professional networking. It was hard to get passed the idea that experts in the field of animal genetics may want to hear what I have to say. But, with each day of the conference I gained confidence and a better grasp on my purpose there. I was able to ask speakers how they got involved in their current research and what opportunities there were in their field. At first it seemed foolish, but I reassured myself by thinking “everyone has to start somewhere.”
As the day of my poster session approached, my nervousness increased. I was afraid for potential questions people may ask me about my research. I was relieved when I got there and saw how friendly everyone was. The hour and a half I stood there felt like an eternity. Luckily, during that eternity I was able to talk to other students displaying their posters and learn how they got interested in research and their career goals. The people that did stop to inquire about my project were very encouraging once they found out I am an undergraduate. I realized there was nothing to be nervous about. In fact, their praise and support reminded me that I have been presented with an incredible opportunity to attend an international conference as an undergraduate. While at times I was frustrated with my inexperience in research, my lack of genetics knowledge, and not knowing my place at the conference, I stayed optimistic. I am excited for my future in research as a veterinarian. This trip, made possible because of the Honors Enrichment Award, helped me understand the connection between genomics research and veterinary medicine.
Jamaica Field Service Project Report
by Aimee Pearsall
My name is Aimee Pearsall and I am a junior Music Education Choral/General Major with a minor in violin at the University of Delaware. I could not imagine a more perfect way to start the year of 2013 than traveling to Jamaica with the organization Jamaica Field Service Project (JAFSP.) This organization is a service-learning study abroad program offered through the State University of New York located in Potsdam. It offers students a chance to attend trips in Jamaica and focus either on music education, music therapy, or literacy. I chose the music education track, and I was given the opportunity to study Afro-Caribbean drumming in Jamaica while volunteering in local elementary schools and preschools to teach singing, drumming, and recorder. I could not have asked for a more educational, culturally rich, rewarding, or fun experience!
The first few days of the trip were filled with exciting excursions, relaxing on the beach, and interacting with the locals. We went on a hike that familiarized us with the lay of the land; the parish of St. Elizabeth is practically a desert! Here is a picture of the University of Delaware students that went on the trip. We also went snorkeling in a coral reef and saw beautiful creatures like the octopus pictured on the right!
Additionally, we went on a twelve-mile boat ride and saw dolphins and crocodiles up close. Later that day we swung from a rope swing into the Black river, and ate at a restaurant in the middle of the ocean, pictured below!
There is no doubt about it, teaching the children music was by far the highlight of the trip. Each evening, our trip leader held a training session where we were given teaching materials that we were to teach the next day in the schools. The group worked in two elementary schools and three preschools throughout the week. We taught the children singing, recorder, and traditional Afro-Caribbean drumming which is integral to the Jamaican culture. Because most of the children receive no formal music instruction and the Jamaican school system offers no music classes, the children were incredibly excited and grateful for the opportunity to learn music. It was wonderful to be able to teach children who were so excited about the prospect of learning. Additionally, at the end of the week, we were able to donate many drums, recorders, and school supplies to the schools, which means that music will remain a part of the schoolyard culture even now that we are gone. The point of teaching was not so much to teach the children all of the technical aspects of music, but to give them a good experience making music with one another so that they could continue to use music as an emotional and fun outlet to bond with their peers, family, and neighbors.
The final aspect of the trip that I found so wonderful was learning about the Jamaican culture. Each evening our trip leader held a drum circle, where we as students and staff bonded through our music-making. Our trip leader, Eric Wills, lives primarily in Jamaica throughout the year, so he was able to provide us with candid information about the Jamaican culture that would have been hard to learn on our own. He told us stories of how Jamaicans overcome poverty, tales of how many Jamaicans still participate in voo doo, and how drumming is used at traditional ceremonies and at dead yards to celebrate the life of the dead. This gave me a new sense of responsibility to pass down the drum beats that are integral to the culture to the children so that the drum beats do not continue to die out. I truly felt immersed in the Jamaican culture, which was very important to me, so that I was able to interact with the local people in a respectful manner, and teach the children music in a way that helped to promote their culture.
I am so grateful for the University of Delaware Honors program for giving me the opportunity to go on this trip of a lifetime. I was able to help another country that was in need by doing what I love, teaching music. Seeing the joy on the children’s faces when they participated in music was so incredibly rewarding. I was not only able to help another community, but I learned a lot about teaching strategies, drumming, and another culture that will help me to be a better educator.
VIDA Summary Report
by Rebecca Aiello
For the first two weeks of the new year, I had the opportunity to travel with the VIDA volunteer program, as one of 40 students pursuing medical, veterinary, or dental careers. VIDA, which stands for Volunteers for Intercultural and Definitive Adventures, is a non-profit organization working in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Students, such as myself, under the direction of bilingual doctors, veterinarians, and dentists, learn valuable skills in the field of their choice, while providing free services to communities in need. My trip began in Costa Rica, and ended in Nicaragua twelve days later. In that time, I learned valuable veterinary skills, made lifelong connections, experienced a new culture, and brushed up on my Spanish.
The trip was based around six clinic days, where we worked from 8am to 4pm (sometimes later!). We set up our clinics at three different sites – the first was a Red Cross building, the second an old gymnasium, and the third a church. As part of the veterinary team, I helped in intake, surgery, and recovery. We learned how to examine the patients, taking vital signs such as heart rate, respiratory rate, pulse, and capillary refill time. We also checked for skin infections, skeletal problems, and fleas and ticks. If the patient was to be spayed or neutered, we would prepare the necessary medications, including anesthesia, antibiotics, and analgesics, and administer them. I also learned how to place an intravenous catheter and intubate animals in preparation for surgery. During surgery, I would either assist the veterinarian performing the operation, or monitor heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature throughout the procedure. Once patients were out of surgery, they entered into recovery, where we would continue to monitor vital signs to ensure a proper recovery. The veterinarians we worked with were eager to share their knowledge, and very helpful. Our patients were usually dogs, although we examined a few cats. One group even did a consultation for two rabbits. With a team of four veterinarians, and fifteen student volunteers, we were able to see over 250 patients in only six days.
For four days in Nicaragua, we were in homestays. I was placed with two other girls on the veterinary team, and we shared a room in our family’s house. The houses in Nicaragua are like nothing I have ever seen before, and it was a great opportunity to really immerse myself in the culture. It was a bit difficult to communicate with our host “mama,” because she did not speak any English, and my Spanish is minimal. However, she had two daughters, and the older one, was able to translate for us when she was at home. The daughters brought us around town, to a market, and into Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. Touring Masaya, where we stayed, and Managua, with local people really personalized the experience for me. On the last night of our homestays, we had a farewell fiesta, complete with traditional music and dancing. It was a wonderful end to our short stay in Masaya.
We traveled by bus to each location, and the winding roads of Costa Rica made for long trips. When crossing the border to Nicaragua, we spent a total of eleven hours on the bus! However, we were able to see mountains, lakes, towns, coatis, iguanas, monkeys, and even two volcanoes.
While the clinics were an amazing learning experience, I was excited to participate in the other events that VIDA plans for their volunteers. In Costa Rica, we spent a day in the shadow of Volcan Arenal, which was Costa Rica’s most active volcano until 2010. There, we were able to swim in hot springs, which are naturally heated by the volcano. In Nicaragua, we took a latin dance class, where we learned dances such as salsa and merengue. One morning, we visited a local day care, where women who work in the market could bring their children. We donated coloring books, toys, stickers, and bubbles, and played with the children for a few hours. That afternoon, we had the opportunity to zipline canopy mombacho, one of my favorite parts of the trip. On our last day in Nicaragua, we took a boat tour around the Islands of Granada, or “Las Isletas,” a group of more than 300 islands off the coast of Granada.
My Adventures with VIDA in Costa Rica and Nicaragua
by Sarah Weiskopf
Earlier this month, I traveled to Costa Rica and Nicaragua on a medical volunteer trip through the organization VIDA. The clinics were very different from what I was expecting. Instead of each patient being seen privately, all patients were seen in one large room. Our job as volunteers was to record basic patient information, obtain a medical history, take blood pressure, and ask questions about what brought the patient to the clinic. When we were done, we reported our findings to a doctor, who would then explain both to us and to the patient what the problem was. The patients coming to the clinics rarely saw a doctor, so when they had the opportunity to do so, they told us every problem they could remember having.
We saw many cases of parasites, fungal infections, and problems associated with drinking unpurified water and cooking with wood smoke. Most patients received some kind of medicine. At first, I surprised by the amount of medications that the doctors prescribed, but I soon realized that much of it was ibuprofen or cough syrup, things that we buy over the counter here in the United States. Although these drugs are available over the counter in Costa Rica and Nicaragua as well, many of our patients could not afford to purchase them.
Our patients were extremely grateful, and even if they had to wait most of the day before they could be seen, they almost always thanked us and told us we were welcome back anytime. The Nicaraguan town of El Arenal showed us their gratitude by giving each of us handmade bracelets that many of the residents sold at the market. It was very touching!
During our six clinic days, we saw over 365 patients.
The clinics were very rewarding and educational, but there were also many other memorable experiences from this trip! In Costa Rica, we visited natural hot springs. As we drove through the country, we saw some amazing views, and even got off the bus to see wildlife and some of the largest iguanas I’ve ever seen.
Nicaragua was also a very beautiful country, but even right from the border, you could tell that the citizens were not as well off as those in Costa Rica. Our first stop in Nicaragua was Masaya, where we lived with host families. My host mom did not speak a word of English, so my Spanish definitely got some use! It was interesting to talk to the host families see what daily life and cuisine is actually like. I can honestly say I have never eaten so much rice and beans in my life. We also participated in other community activities in Masaya, such as a community soccer game, tag with some of the local children, and a visit to a daycare. I also got to go zip lining through the jungle, which was very cool!
After Masaya, we traveled to Granada, the oldest colonial city in the Americas. There were some beautiful churches there, and we also took a tour of the surrounding islands, which were gorgeous. One of the islands had very friendly monkeys, and several people from our group fed them crackers!
My trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I met many interesting people, got to experience what life was like in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, learned a great deal, and helped out people in need. I would highly recommend volunteering with VIDA, and anyone who is interested should visit: http://vidavolunteertravel.org/
Jess is living la VIDA servicio
by Jess Applebaum
I spent two weeks volunteering in free mobile veterinary clinics in Costa Rica and Nicaragua with a the nonprofit, VIDA (Volunteers for Intercultural and Definitive Adventures). The words unbelievable, eye-opening, and extraordinary are all understatements as to how fantastic this trip actually was, and a 500 word blog post is not nearly enough to describe everything.
I got more hands-on experience than I could have imagined. Working in pairs, we did checkups and gave injections on our own. We learned how to prepare patients for surgery and assisted in several spay and neuter surgeries where we actually got to make cuts and tie sutures. We managed the recovery station where we monitored vitals as patients recovered from anesthesia, wrote prescriptions in Spanish and prepared take-home medications before returning animals to their owners. The veterinarians that worked with us were absolutely amazing and were so willing to share knowledge, answer questions and trust us to perform important tasks. As a team of 15 students and four local veterinarians, we treated 203 animals.
We also had recreational days which included a day at hot springs heated by the Costa Rican volcano, Volcán Arenal, zip lining on a canopy tour in Nicaragua, a community soccer game, salsa dancing lessons, a day at the largest market in Nicaragua, and a boat tour in Granada, the oldest city on the continent. We saw lots of wildlife and fed chocolate to some wild monkeys. I enjoyed living with a host family in Masaya, Nicaragua and getting to know locals. I played a game called libre, similar to tag, with children, and spent time before clinic teaching them English. The neighborhood kids called me “Profe,” short for “Professora” or Teacher. As a Spanish minor, it was a great opportunity to practice Español and learn more about where they come from. Even though we come from two completely different places, we have a lot in common.
There were also some heartbreaking moments on the trip. Many of the dogs we treated were sick with a variety of diseases, most extremely thin with intestinal parasites. They were also severely abused. Owners beat their dogs with whatever they could find: tree branches, metal chains, shoes. This made working with animals difficult because they were aggressive, biting and scratching us on multiple occasions.
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the world next to Haiti. Many people can barely afford food for themselves, let alone a pet. Our clinics were set up in places with limited resources, one being on a basketball court outside of a school. It was heartbreaking to see patients with conditions we couldn’t treat under the circumstances.
One of the most touching experiences was when a mother cried after I gave her a package of children’s underwear from the US. I also donated some pajamas to children outside our clinic, and a little boy took a girls set, so happy to have pajamas even though they were pink. Where I lived, all water was contaminated, there was no such thing as a hot shower, and we had a septic system that only sometimes worked, but locals remained positive and were very friendly and welcoming.
Thank you to the VIDA staff and everyone who helped make this trip possible. Thank you to everyone who gave me donations to bring, and thank you to UDHP for funding part of this trip. It was a very rewarding experience. I feel like I have a home away from home in Nicaragua, and I hope to return again one day to further help the people and animals of Latin America.